Biological Anthropology is distinctive for the breadth of topics it covers, incorporating elements from archaeology, ecology, conservation, zoology, genetics, pyschology, medicine and health. It includes all aspects of human biology, and that of our close evolutionary relatives, the primates, along with many questions about the interaction between humans, their societies and their environments.
We consider the roots of human behaviour, the relationship between humans and other species, patterns of human diversity in genetics, morphology, ecology and behaviour, as well as the health and disease problems of contemporary human populations living in both traditional and modernising environments.
GENETICS Genetics is the basis for much of biology, and genes partly shape the way people develop, look and act.Anthropologists study genetics to understand how genes and the environment interact, to trace our evolution, and to gain more knowledge of disease and health.
ECOLOGY Humans live in complex environments, and face many problems of survival. Anthropologists study human ecology to understand how individuals and societies adapt, and to learn how to help in the eradication of malnutrition and disease.
PRIMATES Humans are primates, and other species of primates are our closest relatives. As such, they are studied to gain insights into their complex patterns of behaviour, their evolution, and to safeguard their future in a world in which their habitats are under threat.
Humans have evolved over the last five million years. The study of human evolution has been central to anthropology, showing the path of our development and understanding why humans have evolved in the way they have.
What can you do with a degree in Biological Anthropology?
Biological Anthropology opens up many career paths. There are many research opportunities in mainstream biology, such as the growing field of human genomics. Many students undergo further training and work in health-related fields, especially in the developing world. Others pursue careers in conservation, in research into human evolution, in museums, and many other fields. By providing a sound training in both writing and quantitative skills, Biological Anthropology provides an excellent basis for careers in all branches of industry, commerce and the media.
There are many excellent and readable books on topics in Biological Anthropology that give a flavour of the types of questions that we address, such as:
Boyd, R. & Silk, J.B. (2006) How Humans Evolved. 4th edit. W.W. Norton.
Diamond, J. (1997) Guns, Germs, and Steel. Jonathan Cape.
Lewin, R. & Foley, R.A. (2003) Principles of Human Evolution. 2nd edit. Blackwell.
Ridley, M. (2000) Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters. Fourth Estate.
Ridley, M. (2003) Nature via Nurture. Genes, Experience and What Makes Us Human. Fourth Estate.
de Waal, F. (2001) Tree of Origin. What Primate Behavior Can Tell Us about Human Social Evolution. Harvard University Press.